A Raglan commercial fisher has today been fined $14,000 in the Hamilton District Court for illegally trawling in a restricted area.
Warrick Lloyd Harris (52) is an owner operator and sole skipper of the fishing vessel Joanne. He was sentenced on one representative charge under Fisheries (Auckland and Kermadec area commercial fishing) Regulations 1986, for carrying out the trawls, following a successful prosecution by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
"Mr Harris fished in an area off the west coast of the North Island which was closed to trawling to protect endangered Māui dolphins," says MPI regional manager, investigations north, Aleshea Allen.
"Those restrictions are in place for a very good reason. Most commercial fishers do the right thing, but our message to those who want to break the rules is clear – we will pursue this offending and put it before the courts.
Fisheries New Zealand digitally monitors all commercial inshore and deep-sea vessels through a digital tracking and reporting system which provides reliable evidence if fishers are trawling in prohibited areas.
"We expect commercial fishers to know where they’re legally able to fish and have the right equipment on board their vessels to alert them if they’ve strayed into protected areas.
"Mr Harris has been a commercial fisher for around 25 years and has fished out of Raglan for more than 20 years – he should have known better."
Fisheries analysts uncovered the offending in 2021 by analysing the digital monitoring data. Fishery officers then inspected his fishing records and opened an investigation.
"Māui dolphins are only found in New Zealand waters, they are a taonga and must be protected. We would advise any commercial fishers operating close to these prohibited areas that the risk to these mammals and your reputation is not worth it," she says.
On board cameras are being rolled out across the inshore commercial fleet and have been prioritised on boats posing a higher risk to protected species.
Mr Harris's fishing vessel Joanne, was forfeited to the Crown.
MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24)